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Issue 14
, 2009
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Time to scrap unsafe shipbreaking

Source: The Hindu Business Line, New Delhi, Date: , 2009

India, along with Bangladesh and Pakistan, figured at the United Nations International Maritime Organisation’s convention on ship recycling held in Hong Kong recently. These three countries, accounting for nearly 80 per cent of the world’s demolition of ships, are also known for their yards employing underpaid, unprotected workers handling asbestos, mercury and other hazardous substances, throwing up a potential environment disaster. In these demolition yards, where there are no health and safety regulations in force, huge ocean freighters and tankers are torn apart by workers virtually with their bare hands. Nearly two weeks ago, dozens of countries signed a new treaty to make ship recycling safer. The five-day diplomatic conference on scrap yard standards ended with adoption of the “Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009”. Associated with the new convention will be a set of guidelines that are being, or will be developed by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) to assist uniform implementation. The convention, which incorporates a port state control concept based on the no-more favourite treatment principle, ensures a level playing field for all parties while respecting the global nature of shipping advocating internationally applicable measures. The Hong Kong Convention rejected a proposal supported by over 100 human rights, labour and environment protection organisations from more than 30 countries to phase out deadly and polluting beaching operation — an operation where ships are dumped in high tide and then drift to beaches to be taken apart. “The new convention on ship recycling won’t stop a single toxic ship from being broken on the beach of a developing country,” said Ingvild Jenssen, Director of NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, an umbrella group of non-government organisations.